Medical malpractice caps have been the subject of fierce debate in Florida for over a decade. Now the Supreme Court of Florida is considering another case on the topic, but the results likely won’t be heard for some time. They just took their summer recess. It is possible they may deliver an opinion during the break.
The current saga began in 2003 when the Florida legislature overhauled the medical malpractice system and put a cap on the amount of money that can be issued for non-economic damages, commonly known as “pain and suffering”, at a million dollars. Lawmakers said this cap would help control increasing medical malpractice insurance costs. Since that time the caps have been challenged twice before the Supreme Court.
The first challenge was decided in 2014 in a wrongful death case. In 2006, a woman died giving birth due to blood loss. The courts initially awarded $1 million in economic damages and $2 million in non-economic damages. The non-economic damages were to be split between the dead woman’s son and the woman’s parents. Later. that amount was adjusted and a lawsuit was filed. Eventually, the Supreme Court struck down the damage caps as unconstitutional due to the problems that come up when multiple parties are eligible for damages in wrongful-death cases.
The case before the Supreme Court now isn’t a wrongful-death case. It’s a personal injury case. In 2007, a dental assistant went in for carpal tunnel surgery and ended up with a perforated esophagus from the tubes put in to assist with breathing and anesthesia. In that case, the woman was awarded $4 million in total damages but it was adjusted to $2 million. The question before the court is whether the legislature’s reasons for capping non-economic damages in the first place violates the Florida constitution. If the damage caps are repealed in this case, Florida residents who are the victims of malpractice will be eligible for much more money.
If doctors and lawmakers want to limit the amount of damages that can be awarded for a medical error, they have to prove that there is a greater amount of damage to society by not capping. Many doctors say that their medical malpractice insurance premiums are too high to make a good living, and many medical organizations lobby the legislature to prevent people from getting too much money in order to keep premiums down.
But for the people who are injured and have to live in pain for the rest of their lives, or for the families that lose a loved one due to a medical error, those consequences are far worse than an increased premium and deserve adequate compensation. An injury that wasn’t their fault that puts someone out of work for the rest of their life must be accounted for. Having that person live destitute because of a doctor’s error is unfair.
If you believe that you’ve been the victim of medical malpractice or have been injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, please give the Miami medical malpractice lawyers at Neufeld, Kleinberg, and Pinkiert, PA a call for your free consultation.